Kind Kate: Zionsville Woman’s Campaign to Spread Kindness
Writer / Rebecca Wood
Photographer / JJ Kaplan
A few years ago, my tween son started a dog walking business. He printed flyers advertising his services and tucked them into neighbors’ mailboxes. Then he waited anxiously by the phone for a barrage of calls.
Kate McGormley was the first one to contact my son. They made arrangements to meet. The next day, my son and I arrived at McGormley’s home and chatted with her about her pups.
Within minutes of conversing with McGormley, I concluded two things: 1) She was perfectly capable of walking her own dogs, and 2) she requested my son’s dog walking services as a benevolent act to place a few dollars in a tween’s empty wallet.
From our brief interaction, I immediately pegged McGormley as kind.
And so, I was not surprised to learn that McGormley devotes herself to spreading kindness via community initiatives and kindnessmatters365.tumblr.com, a blog that documents and encourages daily acts of kindness.
When asked about her desire to spread kindness, McGormley chuckles and humbly responds, “I have a kindness blog because I’m not always that kind. But, I understand and believe in the importance of kindness.”
McGormley confesses the root of her kindness initiative stems from being the recipient of kind acts, especially when she’s needed them most. She holds a deep-seated need to return the favor to others.
In 2012, McGormley was a fresh transplant to Zionsville via her home state of Michigan. She was adjusting to her new hometown and new role as a stay-at-home mom to her young sons: Gavin and Paxton. McGormley pondered how best to use her time.
Joel McGormley says his wife was looking for a sense of community and a way to share their family’s experiences with intentional acts of kindness. The couple brainstormed ideas and landed on kindnessmatters365, a blog that would chronicle the family’s daily acts of kindness for a complete year.
Starting January 1, 2013, the McGormley family performed a daily kindness act and documented their experience on the blog.
Over the course of that year, the McGormleys adopted a soldier, visited Zionsville Meadows senior community, gave gifts to everyone from the school cafeteria lady to teachers, handed out flowers at Marsh and wrote a lot of thank you notes (among other acts).
McGormley recalls their most memorable moment as the time her sons gave the school cafeteria lady a card and chocolates.
“When we handed her the gift, she burst into tears and told us she was having a bad day and needed this,” McGormley recalls. “These little acts made a difference.”
Joel reports that a small kindness community arose from the blog posts. “Kate has always believed that a single act can positively affect a person, a community and the world. There is a multiplying factor, and amazing, unanticipated things can happen with very little effort or time,” says Joel.
Rebecca Mills, a faithful follower of kindnessmatters365, credits McGormley’s kindness campaign with encouraging her own kind acts. She is trying to be more kind in her responses to others.
“My son and I gave his bus driver an end-of-year gift this year,” Mills asserts. “I’m not sure I would have done that a few years ago.”
McGormley’s blog audience voices an appreciation for her authentic and vulnerable posts, especially writings on her personal struggles with mental health.
Since the eighth grade, McGormley has suffered from depression. At age 23, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. McGormley feels a deep-rooted responsibility to help others engaged in a similar battle.
“I’m working to eradicate the stigma,” McGormley asserts. “I feel like I need to be a voice for those who may be voiceless. I’m in a good place, and I need to be an advocate for those who are not.”
McGormley recently penned a very personal blog post about suicide and severe depression. Her post was shared over 900 times, and she received numerous emails of encouragement and support from all over the country.
In her past struggles with mental health, McGormley says strangers and loved ones showered her with kind acts.
“When I was that vulnerable, I was so touched by that kindness and felt like I needed to give back to the world,” McGormley declares.
Since 2014, McGormley has continued to blog about her family’s kind acts, although she is no longer committed to performing a daily act. This year, she’s focusing her kind acts towards her own family.
“It’s a lot easier to be kind to strangers than those close to you,” McGormley admits.
In addition to her blog, McGormley promotes kindness in her community work. She is a member of the kindness committee at Stonegate Elementary School and played a role in organizing the inaugural Stonegate Elementary kindness concert. Proceeds from the concert went to a charity that promotes kindness to those with disabilities.
McGormley plans to continue her kindness campaign and wants others to join.
“People are under so much stress, and there is so much division,” McGormley states. “Kindness is universal and unites. Anyone can be kind. Little kind things can restore your faith in humanity.”
As one who has personally been the recipient of McGormley’s kindness, I can confirm these little acts do make a difference.
Kindness does matter.